Chris Mazdzer (L) and Ashley Farquharson (R) react after sliding with Zachary DiGregorio (C) and Sean Hollander during the luge team during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 10, 2022 in Yanqing, China.
BEIJING — When USA Luge competed in the first FIL World Cup this season, the team finished second in the relay.
That world cup back in November was held at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre, home of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 luge competition. But the U.S. team had a different make-up back then. In that world cup, mostly veterans competed, including four-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer, three-time Olympian Tucker West, and two-time Olympian Jayson Terdiman paired with Mazdzer in doubles.
Ashley Farquharson, 22, was the only relative newcomer on that relay squad.
At the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, USA Luge fielded a relay team that was more new than old. Mazdzer and Farquharson were on it, but with Mazdzer competing as the men's singles slider. In doubles, first-time Olympians Zack DiGregorio and Sean Hollander slid in the red-white-and-blue.
With a valiant effort, the U.S. sliders finished seventh, 2.335 seconds behind the Germans, who again dominated Olympic competition — though barely held on for gold in the relay, beating Austria by only 0.08 of a second. Almost a second behind, Latvia won the bronze medal.
Even without a medal, the Americans were still smiling at the end.
“It’s so many people’s first Olympics, and it’s such a unique experience,” said Mazdzer, who finished eighth in men’s singles on Sunday night. “As long as we were going for it, that's all that matters.”
And that’s what they did.
Farquharson laid down the fourth fastest women’s run. She slapped the paddle, then Mazdzer took off, clocking the sixth fastest run.
Then, in their very first relay ever as a doubles team, DiGregorio and Hollander started down the track. In the doubles competition last night, they finished 11th but had improved each run. The clock was in the green until turn 13 — where just about everyone has struggled on this new track. DiGregorio was off steering out of the turn, and the two skidded badly up the climb to the finish paddle.
“A little problem turns into a big problem down there,” DiGregorio explained. “It's a really challenging track error. Any little mistake really will kill your speed. So that's what happened down there.
“But yeah, the top section was great.”
Mazdzer did not care that his teammates had dumped speed at the end. They had given their all.
“Back at Christmas time, no one would have picked any of us to be in the positions that we are currently in,” he said. “That gave us the advantage to just go for it, have fun, enjoy the experience. And that's what we did. And I think that was a success.”
USA Luge has done well in team relays since the discipline was introduced on the world cup about 15 years ago. The American sliders are a close-knit group and thrive when an individual sport becomes a team effort.
As DiGregorio said, “most of luge is just me and Sean, or for singles just them, so when you bring in the team, it's amazing.”
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Olympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.